Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week 6 Next Steps Agility

Leo had agility practice again on Thursday night. It's hard to believe the class is already almost over. The past six weeks have flown by but to look back on Leo's progress is amazing. One of the biggest deals lately is Leo's quick conquering of jumps. It's interesting to look back because I think in training we take jumps for granted. With an "Oh, they're just jumps" mentality, sometimes I think dogs may get the mistaken impression that "just jumps" are not important even when set up directly in front of one. It was an interesting concept but the more I think back to training, I think we focus so much on training contact behavior, worrying about success with the teeter, and sitting/downing on the table plus the plethora of other things like doing what we're told and positive experiences versus negative interactions with other dogs in class, "just jumping" can go by the wayside. But in the grand scheme of things, most dogs won't experience the "Oh, it's just a jump" thought process and, instead, will take what is put in front of them. It's the small percentage, like Leo, that taking the jump directly in front of him was a bigger deal. I'm glad to say that with just five minutes at the barn one practice session, by treating, rewarding, and building value in the jumps, he happily flies over all eight inch jumps now without question.

My remaining concerns to continue working on with Leo seem to be:

  • Building and maintaining speed over the dog walk. He likes the dog walk. He willingly takes the dog walk. But he often meanders across it as if there might be treats there or as Jim likes to say, lollygagging. 
  • Contacts. I don't have to worry about him going through the contact zone, but I do want to have a solid criteria. Right now it seems like he gets what I want (four on with a sit), but he doesn't understand where I want it. He's often halfway up the yellow on the a-frame when he offers the behavior and the same for the dog walk. It's an interesting conundrum and I can't decide whether to let it go or work it until he gets that I want it at the end of the board. But at least he's being safe. 
  • Teeter. Good God the teeter. The good news is that he willingly boards the teeter. I'm not having to place his feet on the obstacle. The bad news is, he recognizes it as a somewhat evil obstacle still and will veer away from it as if I am always headed for it with him in tow. Plus, he's figured out the tip point and as soon as he hits it or just before, he stops. We need to work through that because, quite frankly, I'd allow him a running contact on it if possible. 
What is my mantra for these things? Patience, grasshopper, patience. Fortunately I've mostly nailed that one with Leo. He's grown so much in our training and with patient moves like sticking with foundation agility two sessions in a row, so I'm not concerned that he won't do what I want eventually. But, it means possibly shifting my goals for us a bit. We'll see, but I was hoping for his debut in agility to be the August Columbia Agility Team CPE trial. There is a fun match over the Memorial Day weekend I may enter him into for a run or two just to begin getting experience in a trial environment. 

Aside from all that, we start up our obedience classes again next week and I'm looking forward to that. Now I need to get disciplined and work with him prior to that so it looks like we've made progress!

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